Welcome to North Winn: A Healthy Place!

Fourth Graders’ Potato Projects

November-December 2017

Fourth Graders have been cooking some of the potatoes they planted in the North Winn garden in May and harvested in October. In small groups they prepared and “fries”, mashed and pancakes.
Isaac, Karlee, Kaylee and Xavier sliced some red-skinned potatoes, tossed them with olive oil and
seasonings. Some were “fried” in a special cooker we had received years ago through the Northeast Food and Fitness Initiative, and others were baked in a regular oven. They all came out delicious and were heartily enjoyed by all the 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

Ayden, Devon, Jasera, Kale T. and Savannah made Champ, Irish-style mashed “spuds.” They boiled, peeled and mashed the spuds, then added warm milk flavored with green onion. Their fellow students were happy to sample the slightly-unusual dish.

The most complicated potato dish was made by Alexis, Logan, Kale C. and Tylar. Latkes are a traditional Jewish potato pancake often served during the Hanukkah festival in late fall. Our latkes included parsnips—a mild, white vegetable in the carrot family. The students grated the skin-on potatoes and peeled parsnips, and chopped green onions. They separated eggs and mixed in the whites. The small patties were fried in oil and served to the students with applesauce.

The remaining group of Cael, Michael, Ryan, Serenity and Sierra did not cook potatoes because of time constraints. They practiced using knives to prepare fresh vegetables, and served them to the other students during afternoon “Bolt” snack time.
The 4th graders also packaged about 20 pounds of their potatoes and donated them to the Mabel Food Shelf in November.

Come Along with North Winn Walkers!

October 2017

North Winn students now have another way to be active during recess or non-school time. North Winn Walkers is kind of a mileage club, or a way to visit with friends while still being active. Five laps on the playground trail equal one mile and earn a foot-print token for their chain necklace. Students have walked or jogged a combined total of 120 miles since the program started!

Substitute teacher, North Winn mom, and school wellness team member Marissa Nordschow measured a trail around the playground. She introduced all students to the mileage club rules and created log sheets for walkers to fill out. Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) provided a big bag of tokens. We welcomed our first "guest walker" on Oct. 13 when Winneshiek Deputy Tim Felton joined students during mid-day recess.

NW Walkers also helps us participate in a regional initiative, Walk Northeast Iowa, which grew out of FFI. Schools, businesses
and healthcare providers are sharing information and inspiration about improving health in adults and children. See the website www.walkneiowa.org for information on the physical and mental health benefits of walking, and maps of trails in many regional communities.

We encourage families and friends to walk and talk together regularly. And if you do that on our playground after school or on weekends with your North Winn student, please send a message to school with how many laps your child walked. It will help them earn more feet for their necklace!

Sweet Beans Harvested and Served

September 2017

Kindergarten students recently harvested from our school garden a kind of soybean called sweet beans or edamame (eh-dah-mah-may), which is the Japanese name. The students identified many plant parts as they pulled them up: leaves, stems, blossoms, seed pods, and roots. We saw that the roots had little round pieces that make energy for the plant to grow. We eat the seeds of sweet beans.

The kitchen staff cooked the beans and fifth grade volunteers served them during lunch. They wore black chef’s hats and told their fellow students that this kind of bean gives us energy and is good for healthy bones, heart and digestion. They are also fun to eat because we put the end of a pod in our mouths and use our teeth to squeeze out the sweet beans.

Edamame grows very abundantly in Iowa gardens, is ready to pick all at the same time, and freezes very well shelled or in the pod. We will be sure to plant more next year because one serving this time was not enough for most students who gave them a big “thumbs up” in their sample.

Serving unfamiliar foods in the lunch room is one of several wellness activities the upper elementary students may volunteer for. Others include leading taste tests in classes, cafeteria coaching where they sit with younger students to encourage them to eat unfamiliar foods, the school lunch advisory board and the school wellness committee. This is a kind of community service activity and helps the volunteers learn new skills.

School Lunch

August 2017

“What did you have for lunch today?”
“Hmmm.... Cheesy bread?”
Not always an easy question to answer at 6 p.m., when social and physical activities at school and supper at home sound much more interesting.

You can check the menu on the monthly calendar that comes with the first weekly letter each month. Save or print it for easy reference. Or see the menu on the school web page, n-winn.k12.ia.us under Student Activities . Menu changes, other than those made at the last minute, will be posted there.
And we are now posting a daily photo of a student with their lunch tray so you can see what the food really looks like. There will be a link on the school home page to Today’s Lunch Tray on the staff blog.

Talking about school food at home is an important part of our nutrition program. Parents want to know that their children are getting the nutrients and calories they need. Some may wonder if students are getting “their money’s worth.”
We know that enjoying an unfamiliar food takes practice, just like learning to read, write or play an instrument. That’s why we give students the option of “sample or scoop” size portions of vegetables and multi-ingredient side dishes such as Hawkeye Salad. This contains black beans, corn kernels, and diced tomato, sweet green pepper and onion.
Parents can encourage their children to learn to eat unfamiliar foods. You could try some of them at home, and show your child how you sample them. Having the child help make the side dish tried and true way to increase their willingness to eat it. They could choose green, red or yellow sweet pepper. Choose what kind of bean, open the can and rinse the beans in a sieve. They could measure the corn from the bag of frozen kernels, or diced tomatoes from the can, and stir everything together.
North Winn wholeheartedly accepts the challenge to serve highly nutritious meals in ways that children will enjoy—or at least learn to accept. We are required to serve each child at least three portions from five categories: milk, protein, whole grain, vegetable and fruit with at least one of vegetable or fruit. If you don’t want your child to drink milk, they should bring their own water bottle.

Potatoes in the U.S. Midwest
January 2017

    North Winn fourth graders prepared and sampled potato recipes of three European immigrant groups to complete their social studies unit on the Midwest. They used three varieties of potato they had planted and harvested from the North Winn school garden during the 2016 growing season.
    This activity was meant to show the importance—and deliciousness—of potatoes to immigrants from Eastern Europe, Germany and Ireland.
Latkes—Eastern European Jewish potato-onion fritters
Makes 10-12 latkes

1 pound potatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, beaten
Oil or other fat for frying
Applesauce, for garnish

1.    Peel if desired and coarsely shred the potatoes  into a bowl of very cold water. Drain in a colander, then place on the center of a clean flour-sack towel. Twist the cloth over the sink to squeeze out the moisture. Transfer potatoes  to a large bowl. Add onion and parsley.
2.    In a small bowl mix flour, salt, pepper, and baking soda. Stir into potato mixture until well blended.
3.    In an electric or other heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until hot, about 375 degrees. Drop heaping tablespoons (about 1/8 cup) of mixture into oil. Press with back of measuring cup or spoon to flatten slightly. Latkes will be more crispy and delicious if they cook with plenty of space between them.
4.    Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side until golden brown, adjusting heat as necessary. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm with applesauce.

Champ—Irish mashed spuds

Makes 4-5 side-dish servings

1 to 1.5 pounds spuds
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk or cream
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (or the green sprout that comes out of old onions, or chives, or leeks) 
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
4-5 pats of butter, for garnish

1.    Wash the spuds. In a medium saucepan, cover them with water, add ½ tsp. salt, and bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat as needed and boil until tender when pierced with a fork, about 12-15 minutes.
2.    Drain off the water, turn off the heat, and allow spuds to dry in the pan for 2-3 minutes.
3.    While spuds are cooling, measure the milk into a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add the scallions and heat for 1 minute in the microwave.
4.    Peel spuds if needed. Mash until smooth. Gradually add the milk and onions to the mash and blend well to make a soft but not sloppy mixture.
5.    Divide the mashed spuds onto serving plates or bowls. Grind pepper over each serving. Using a spoon, press a small well into the top of each. Put a pa of butter into each well, and serve.

German Kartoffelsalat—Warm potato salad

Makes 4-5 servings

1 pound red or white kartoffel
1 small onion, chopped
2 slices bacon
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
1/4 tsp. dry mustard (ground)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/3 cup water
 2 Tbs. vinegar
Celery seeds for garnish (optional)

1.    Scrub the kartoffel. In a medium saucepan, cover them with water, add ½ tsp. salt, and bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat as needed and boil until just tender when pierced with a fork, about 12-15 minutes.
2.    While kartoffel are cooking, prepare sauce: In a small bowl, stir together sugar, cornstarch, salt, celery seeds, mustard and pepper. Chop bacon and onion. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion and bacon until bacon is crisp and onion is tender. Stir in water, vinegar and sugar mixture. Cook and stir until thickened.
3.    Drain kartoffel and let rest until cool enough to handle. (May be peeled if skins are tough.) Cut kartoffel into bite-sized pieces. Gently stir into sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more until heated through.
4.    Serve warm, sprinkled with additional celery seeds.

Squash All Year ‘Round...
December 2016

Fourth graders completed a full circle of butternut squash activities. In May 2016, as third graders, they had taste-tested butternut squash that grew in our school garden during the summer of 2015. (Yes, it really did keep fresh for that long in our cool garden closet at school!) They saved some seeds and just before the end of the school year planted them in one of the school garden boxes. The squash thrived with really good growing conditions over the summer, and the fourth graders harvested more than a dozen squash in October. In November they learned some safe knife skills to slice the squash, and mixed the pieces with oil and seasonings. The squash was baked by the cooks and served for lunch. Seeds from these squash will be planted in May.

U of Iowa Nursing Student Helps at North Winn
November 2016

Jessica Larson RN, a University of Iowa student who is earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing, had a clinical experience at North Winn this
semester. One of her activities was to review results of the 2015 community health needs assessment conducted by Winneshiek County Public Health and many other interested parties. Jessica then created posters and handouts that were displayed during North Winn parent-teacher conferences and are summarized here.
Jessica found that of a population of 21,038 more than 11% of families reported no reliable access to nutritious and affordable food. Nearly 85% of adults reported eating fewer than five servings of fruit or vegetables daily, which repeated studies show helps reduce heart disease and some cancers. In addition, only 14% of county residents reported not having access to a recreation or fitness facility. Almost 25% of adults reported having no leisure-time physical activity.

A variety of programs at North Winn attempt to educate students and help them develop lifelong healthy eating and physical activity patterns. Our school wellness committee is seeking to expand activities for families in the coming months. Watch the Weekly Letter for more information.

Jessica also helped our 4th graders harvest squash from the school garden, and plans to return later in November to help Kindergartners grind and sift their calico corn to make cornmeal for muffins.

Questions or comments may be directed to Andrea Homstad, North Winn school nurse.

Farmer-to-School Month
October 2016

North Winneshiek School students bumped up their observance of Farm to School Month in October by sampling red, yellow and orange sweet peppers purchased from a farmers market vendor.
Erik Sessions, co-owner of Patchwork Green farm located in the North Winn district, delivered the mini peppers to the 6th grade class and then talked to them about his business.
He encouraged them to help out in their home gardens, and to visit the farmers market to try some new vegetables.
The sixth graders tasted the peppers and later presented them as a sample to all students and staff during school lunch.

This purchase was supported by a grant from the Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship “Farm to School to Market” program. October has also been a great month for North Winn students to pick and sample vegetables from the school garden. We have eaten green peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.
Some vegetables that have been picked but not served at lunch yet are carrots, butternut squash, calico corn and soup beans. And with our extended garden season this year, there are still beets, sweet potatoes and kohlrabi in the ground!

African-Style Stew from the Garden
October 2016

North Winn sixth grade students completed a multidisciplinary unit on Africa by preparing African-style food. They picked vegetables from the school garden to cook with purchased foods to make a sweet potato, peanut butter and lentil one-pot stew.

The sixth graders then conducted a taste test among fourth through eighth grade students. A majority said they enjoyed the sample and would like to have the sweet potato stew as a vegetable option on the school lunch menu. The cooks made a similar stew and served it Oct. 3. Sixth grade cafeteria coaches visited with K-2 students at their lunch tables to tell them about the ingredients.

We also talked about how the stew contains many foods that have been cultivated in different parts of Africa for thousands of years. People there have also traded their products for spices, which are an important part of African cooking.
 We used an interesting map that shows where in the world many food crops were first cultivated.

You can try this at home:
NW African Stew—
Makes 8 half-cup servings
½ cup lentils, any color—Lentils, an important protein source, were first cultivated in North Africa.
2 medium-size sweet potatoes—They were first cultivated in West and South Africa.
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup chopped kale, packed (may use frozen spinach; add near end of cooking)—Similar greens were first cultivated in North Africa.
Stir together in large crockpot with 2 cups water—Almost half the people who live in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have regular access to safe drinking water.

Add spices—Spices have been imported into Africa from Asia for thousands of years.
1 tsp. ginger, grated or powdered
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground hot red pepper, such as cayenne
½ tsp. salt—Salt is produced in most African countries.

½ cup peanut butter—The peanut we know is similar to the African ground nut, first cultivated in West, Central and South Africa.
Heat ½ cup water. Stir into peanut butter to make a smooth paste. Add to crock pot.

Cook on HIGH for one to two hours, or on LOW for 4 hours, or until vegetables and lentils are tender.
Serve with rice—Rice has been cultivated in West Africa for more than 2,000 years.

Cafeteria Coaches
September 2016

North Winneshiek School’s newest cafeteria coaches helped younger students learn about oranges during school lunch Sept. 20. Cole, Lani and Maggie sat with preschool through second graders to demonstrate how to remove the peel to eat sliced oranges and told them some of the reasons oranges are good to eat.

Cafeteria coaching, developed by Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative staff, utilizes older students as role models to help younger children learn to enjoy eating nutritious food. We focus on vegetables, fruits, and food combinations that may be unfamiliar. As with the oranges, some foods may be familiar but presented in a way the children haven’t before dealt with independently. 

It’s natural for people of all ages to resist eating new foods, but with repetition and coaching most people actually learn to enjoy them. 


All North Winn 6th grade students were trained in cafeteria coaching and presenting taste tests on Aug. 30 by Laura Liechty, registered dietician and ISU Extension northeast region youth and nutrition coordinator. They will have the opportunity to volunteer—wearing black chef’s hats for identification—throughout the school year.


K-3 Buddies Harvest Seeds
Words on Wellness
May 2016

Kindergarten and Third Grade Buddies picked seeds from butternut squash that grew in our school vegetable garden last year. They washed them and spread them on paper toweling to dry, and will plant them in the garden just before school ends this month. Buddies also sampled squash "chips"--thinly sliced, tossed with olive oil, cinnamon and pinches of salt and sugar, and then baked at 400 degrees until done. (Some were brown and crispy and some were shiny and chewy. All of them got "thumbs up" in the taste test!) 

Just in case you needed more reasons to eat dark-colored vegetables, the May edition of W.O.W. reminds us of those that provide the best protection from damage by "oxygen radical" chemicals. That's what they mean by "antioxidants."
Oxygen radicals are produced in the body and from sources such as X-rays, ozone, cigaret smoke, air pollutants and industrial chemicals. They cause DNA, protein and lipid damage which is linked to cancer, and other diseases.
We grow many of them in the North Winn garden so children have a chance to plant, harvest and then eat them really fresh! (Pumpkin and winter squash are the same to us. Replace dark-colored berries such as local rasp- or straw-berries for #10.)
This edition of W.O.W. also includes information on household cleaning and exercising for brain health.
Words on Wellness, from Iowa State University Extension, is available as a pdf download, via Twitter or sent directly to your email. Start at:

Fifth Graders Contribute to Our Healthy Place
April 2016

North Winn fifth grade students recently passed some wellness knowledge to younger students with hand-made activity dice.

They painted numbers on half the dice and symbols on the others. Third, Kindergarten and Preschool classes were given a pair of dice plus a card with activities for each symbol. Fifth grade volunteers taught the students to roll the dice and perform the activity on one die for the number of times shown on the other. The cards are written in erasable marker so the classes can change activities as they wish. 

The fifth graders learned some important nutrition and activity messages on February from Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative's Laura Liechty, and decided to spread the word to other students. Laura, ISU Extension's regional youth and nutrition coordinator, showed them exercises that are easy to do in class during short "brain breaks." She also demonstrated sweetener content of several beverages and other health concerns when she met with them at North Winn.

Second Grade Granola
March 2016

Second graders sampled several potential ingredients for home-made granola, and talked about the health benefits of the whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruit. The next day they measured and mixed their favorites into a big pan of granola for the upcoming Health and Science Fair.

Mrs. Falck helped them make "advertising" posters encouraging fair-goers to sample their granola and informing them why it's a healthful snack.

We are proud of our recipe because:

•    I
t’s pretty easy to make, especially in the microwave.
•    It has ingredients that are good for your body.
•    The ingredients are simple.
•    It’s lower in sweetener than many breakfast foods.
•    You can substitute other ingredients, such as a different kind of nut, spice or fruit.

Here are ways Second Grade Granola is good for you:

The whole grain, nuts, seeds and oil give long-lasting energy for muscles and brain. Refined grains only give short energy and can contribute to heart and digestive diseases and diabetes.
•    Honey and fruit give quick energy to help our brains and muscles get going in the morning.
•    Whole grain, nuts and seeds give fiber that helps the digestive system and cardiovascular (heart and blood) system.
•    Whole grain, nuts, seeds, cherries and cranberries help eyes.
•    Spices and dark red fruits help prevent swelling in many parts of the body. Swelling causes pain and some chronic diseases.
•    Fruit helps cells grow, and heal if injured.
•    High-quality oil (expeller-pressed or organic) is good for skin, brain and nerves.

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
½ cup chopped almonds and/or walnuts
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds (if using roasted seeds, add during last 15 minutes of baking)
2 Tbs. ground flax seed (meal) or other seed, optional
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Stir together in large bowl. Set aside.

2 T. oil
2 T. honey
¼ cup apple juice or water
Stir together in medium bowl until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients until well combined.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Coat a 9”x13”x2” pan with oil or cooking spray. Spread granola mixture evenly in pan. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in ½ cup dried cranberries or other fruit. Cool.
Serve in a bowl with milk or yogurt, or layered with yogurt and fruit to make a parfait, or eat it all by itself.
Note: This may also be baked in a microwave! Decrease juice or water to 2 Tbs. Place all ingredients except dry fruit in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cook on HI for 2 minutes. Stir well. Cook again for 2 minutes. Stir in dry fruit and spread on cookie sheet to cool.

February 2016

Kindergarten and Third Grade buddies made smoothies to develop a recipe for the upcoming Health and Science Fair.

They learned how the ingredients are good in many ways for many parts of our bodies. They also talked about where the ingredients came from. Everything except the tropical fruit was from Northeast Iowa or Southeast Minnesota--they were almost-local smoothies! The yogurt is "plain" which means no sweeteners or flavors are added by the dairy.

Each pair of buddies measured yogurt and water into their bowl. Then they chopped some banana and baby spinach and added that to the bowl. The spinach was a surprise for many students, but when all the ingredients were blended really smooth, they couldn't really see or taste it. Many did agree that it's a pretty good way to eat spinach!

The buddies could choose one, two or all three kinds of fruit for their own smoothie. Their choices were frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries and fresh mango. Many buddy pairs chose all three! Some students explained their recipes to an unexpected visitor, Deputy Tim Felton.

After watching their ingredients whirl in the blender, the buddies sampled their smoothies. Everyone voted "thumbs up" for their smoothie recipe!
Here is the recipe for: North Winn Smoothie

Makes 2-4 servings, 4-8 ounces each.
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries and/or mango)
1/4 cup water, more if needed
1/2 cup sliced banana (may be frozen)
2-4 leaves baby spinach, chopped

Blend all ingredients until smooth, adding more liquid if needed. Pour into serving cups and enjoy!

North Winn Energy Booster Salad
K-3 Buddies Project
January 2016
Kindergarteners and Third Graders, working as buddies, recently made salads that contained many kinds of food. Each buddy pair selected one ingredient from each of several categories, and voted for their favorite recipe.

Categories included cheese, seeds and legumes for protein, fresh vegetables and dried fruits for vitamins and many other nutrients, and whole grains for long-lasting carbohydrate. The salad dressing contains olive oil, considered one of the healthiest fats. While the students said that the word "salad" makes them think of leafy greens, they decided to call the winner of their taste test “North Winn Energy Booster Salad.” 

The Third Graders also made vinaigrette salad dressing and learned about emulsions. That is a scientific process where they took two ingredients that normally do not mix—oil and a watery liquid (juice)—and added two other ingredients (mustard and mayo) that made them blend together well.

Families can try making Energy Booster Salad during Open Gym on Sunday, Jan. 31. Open Gym runs from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and the food activity is available from 2 to 3 p.m. We also will ask Ellen and Toni to make it for school lunch one day in February.

Energy Booster Salad
1/2 cup broccoli florets—fresh, leftover, or thawed from frozen
1/2 cup carrot—sliced, chopped or grated
2 Tbs. dried cranberries
2 Tbs. sunflower seeds
2 Tbs. (I ounce) cheddar cheese—small cubes or grated
1/2 cup rinsed and drained black-eyed peas or other legume
1 cup cooked brown rice or other whole grain

Mix together in medium-size bowl. Add 2-4 Tbs. dressing, or to taste.

“Emulsion” Salad Dressing
3 Tbs. orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon or other mustard
1& 1/2 tsp. mayonnaise
½ tsp. dried oregano (optional)
1 small clove garlic, minced, or a pinch of garlic powder (optional)
a pinch of salt
2-3 grinds (1/4 tsp.) black pepper

Shake all together in a small jar with a tight lid. Leftover dressing may be refrigerated and used within a week.


W.O.W! Brain Food!
Jan. 15, 2016

Fish, berries, and dark green veggies are good for your brain. The most beneficial fish is convenient to buy canned. Watch for sales. Choose albacore, skipjack or yellowfin tuna because these are more likely to be harvested sustainably and dolphin-safe. When you don't have a convenient source of fresh berries, choose canned or dry. While broccoli and spinach are available fresh year-round, they may be more economical now frozen or canned.

Read more about brain food, along with winter power outage and exercise tips in January’s Words on Wellness from Iowa State University Extension. Find this month’s W.O.W, along with the archive of past editions here.

Beans! Beans! So good for your heart!
   Hummus and other legumes
Dec. 7, 2015

Many North Winn classes recently taste-tested hummus, a garbanzo bean dip that originated in the Mediterranean and is now popular around the world. This was an introduction to a new menu item we’ll have Dec. 7. Students tasted plain hummus and the same recipe blended with roasted sweet red peppers. They voted either on paper ballots or with our familiar thumbs-up, -medium, or -down signal. Most students in the younger grades gave hummus thumbs-up, while older kids were more cautious. Brief lessons were included on the nutrition of legumes and the international popularity of hummus.

We will have a hummus station at Family Fun/Open Gym from 1:30 to 2:30 Sunday, Dec. 13. Parents and kids can take a short break from playing to make a healthy snack. Supplies will be provided and extras can be taken home.

School lunch guidelines require that each week we serve at least ½ cup of foods from dry beans or peas. For many years at North Winn this has included beef and bean burritos, chili and “Texas bean hot dish.” Hummus can be enjoyed with crackers or chips, and is delicious as a dip for fresh vegetables. Including it in school meals is meant to help children enjoy vegetables in new ways and to decrease their reliance on fatty and salty ranch-style dips.
The word “heart” may have been chosen many years ago for the Beans! Beans! chant only because it rhymes with “fart,” but food science has recently shown that eating beans and other legumes does have significant health benefits. Among other benefits, recent tests have shown that eating legumes regularly reduces LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels—all really good for your heart. The legume family includes all varieties of beans, including chickpeas, peas, lentils and peanuts.

But what about gas? You can reduce the bean component that causes gas by rinsing the beans during preparation. If you use canned beans: empty the can into a colander, rinse with running water, drain and add to recipe. If using dry beans: soak overnight in cold water, drain, add fresh water and cook until tender, drain off this water, then add beans to the recipe. The gut will also “learn” to digest beans without producing much gas if you eat them regularly.

Basic Hummus recipe
Makes 8 servings, 2 oz. each

15 oz. can, or two cups, garbanzo beans, low salt
1 clove garlic, mashed, or ¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. tahini (sesame paste), optional but traditional
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Rinse and drain beans well.
Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor, or mash by hand, until smooth.
Add cold water, 1 Tbs. at a time, until mixture reaches preferred consistency.
If desired, add additional flavor, color and nutrition:
½ cup red peppers, chopped (fresh or from a jar, roasted or not, but not pickled), and
½ tsp. paprika or chile powder
½ cup cooked spinach, chard or kale (fresh-cooked, canned-drained or frozen-thawed), and
½ tsp. dry basil or ¼ cup fresh, chopped fine

Blend or mash until smooth.
Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Or freeze in small containers for up to 3 months; thaw in fridge or lunch box.
The recipe is easily adapted to other legumes: try lentils and ground cashews, or black beans and sunflower seed butter.

Corn to Meal to Muffins
Nov. 18, 2015

We grew colorful corn—nicknamed Calico or Indian Corn—in the North Winn garden this past year. We tried to emulate the Native American system of growing corn, pole beans and squash together. We ate the beans and squash in our Stone Soup in October.

Kindergarteners ground the Calico Corn this week and then mixed it into corn meal muffins with their Third Grade Buddies. The Buddies then ate the muffins together as an afternoon snack. See more pictures here, and thanks to MaryBeth Dahl for on-the-spot photography!

The Three Sisters method of farming was developed because each plant helps the others grow: the corn stalks provides poles for the beans, the beans provide nitrogen for the corn and squash, and the prickly squash vines deter animal pests. All three vegetables dry into nutritious foods that keep well over the winter.

We will save some of our seeds--blue, black, purple, red, white and yellow--and plant them in the spring. It will be interesting to see what colors and patterns next year's corn will have!

Here is the recipe if you would like to try it. Any kind of cornmeal will work, but you'll want to add a little more milk if you use a coarse-ground meal. 

North Winn Corn Meal Muffins
Place one paper muffin cup in each space of the muffin tin (12). Muffins come out of the papers better when they are cool. If you want to eat them warm, grease the tins rather than use paper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Dry ingredients
1 cup corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 or 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Measure into large bowl. Stir well with a whisk.

Chemistry—little things that make the corn bread rise
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Measure into small bowl. Stir well with whisk. Add to large bowl. Stir again.

Liquid ingredients
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup milk (¾ cup if using whole wheat flour)
1 egg
Crack egg into medium bowl; check to make sure there aren’t any eggshell bits. Stir well with fork. Add yogurt and milk and stir until smooth.

Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients in the large bowl. Stir and fold gently with rubber scraper until all dry ingredients are just barely mixed into the liquid ingredients.

Scoop ¼ cup of batter into each muffin cup. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, until edges of muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean. Remove from muffin tins and place on cooling rack.

Great Midwest Apple Crunch
Nov. 5, 2015

 North Winn students explored apples in late October and early November by eating locally-grown apples during lunch, taste-testing nutritious fruit dips, and touring an apple tree "living museum."
Orchard Manager Dan Bussey led Middle School students through the Seed Savers Exchange heritage apple orchard, just a few miles south of school. He described how apple trees are propagated, a little about the history of some of the hundreds of varieties in the orchard, and the value of diversity in plants.

Several classes participated in taste tests to select a nutritious dip to be served with apples in our school lunch. All three dips are designed to be easy to prepare in small or large quantities from real food you could have in your home.

Some students expected "caramel" dip. According to the label of a popular brand, this is what they would have eaten: high fructose corn syrup, skim milk, corn syrup, palm oil, sugar, butter, modified corn starch, disodium phosphate, potassium sorbate (preservative), TBHQ (added to maintain freshness), salt, mono and diglycerides, artificial flavors.

Our winning dip, by vote of students and teachers, was made of cream cheese, yogurt, brown sugar and vanilla. The brown sugar gives it a caramel-y taste but you could substitute honey, maple syrup or molasses. Use your preferred fat content for the dairy products. We found that locally-produced Country View Dairy's regular or Greek-style plain yogurt worked great and complemented the crisp texture and bright flavor of Peake's Orchard Regent variety apples.

Yogurt Dip
(2 servings, may be multiplied)
1 T. cream cheese
1 t. brown sugar
a drop of vanilla extract, optional
Mash with a fork in a cereal-size bowl until smooth.  Add:
 2 T. plain yogurt
Stir until smooth, slice your apples and enjoy!

Second place in North Winn voting went to
Peanut Butter-Honey Dip (
1-2 servings, may be multiplied)
1 T. smooth peanut butter
1 t. honey
Pinch of cinnamon
Mash with a fork in a cereal-size bowl until smooth. Add:
2 T. milk, or amount to give desired texture.
Stir until smooth and serve with sliced apples.

For a slightly more sophisticated taste, try
Pumpkin Dip
(1-2 servings, may be multiplied)
1 T. cream cheese
2 t. brown sugar
a few grains of salt
Pinch of cinnamon or allspice
1 t. real maple syrup, optional
a drop of vanilla extract, optional
Mash with a fork in a small bowl until smooth. Add:
2 T. pureed (canned or baked) pumpkin, or other squash, sweet potato, cooked carrot, etc.
Stir until smooth and serve with sliced apples.

Our apple projects were supported by Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and the Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's Farm to School and A is for Apple programs.


Abundance from the North Winn garden

Oct. 13, 2015

Our kitchen staff cooked and served Stone Soup with our school lunch Oct. 13, using vegetables harvested by students during garden clean-up day. "Stone Soup" is one of many folk tales from around the world in which one or a few hungry strangers come to a town. The townsfolk are skeptical of the strangers' plan to make soup from water and a stone (or button or nail), but their curiosity leads them to contribute ingredients that combine into a delicious meal. 

The North Winn Preschoolers picked and shelled dry beans....Kindergarteners pulled onions….First and Fifth Graders donated carrots....Second Graders picked kale and chard....Third Graders contributed yellow and green cucumbers….Fourth Graders picked cobs of popcorn and two big squashes….Sixth Graders cleaned out the cherry tomato vines….and Seventh and Eighth Graders picked potatoes and cabbage.

  Garrett, Jackson and Cole harvested potatoes they had planted in May.

Many classes also read a version of the Stone Soup folktale to whet their appetites for lunch. This is one way we try to integrate academic subjects--language arts, social studies--with gardening and nutrition. Students can perhaps also see that cooperation, hard work, and a bountiful harvest can make a delicious meal.

School Wellness Team
September 2015
Healthy, tasty food….physical activity throughout the school day, and family fun/open gym days during the year….nutrition education in classes, sent home and on the school website….These are part of a commitment by staff, administration and school board to provide a comprehensive learning environment for developing wellness behaviors.
The North Winn Wellness Team oversees this school plan. It includes staff, our superintendent/principal, and students. We need parents, other relatives or neighbors to join us once a month to review current wellness programs and promote new ones. For example, we look forward to having a community health fair after school one day in February 2016. It would be great to have family and community help to make that happen. 

Team meetings are currently scheduled for 7:30 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month. The fall meetings will be Oct. 6, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8. Please contact Tim Dugger or Andrea Homstad at school if you are interested. 

Words on Wellness
September 2015

Words on Wellness (WOW), from Iowa State University extension, promotes a healthy lifestyle. Get reliable, research-based information each month about nutrition, exercise, and food safety.

Check out WOW to explore the power of incorporating healthy practices into daily living for you and your family.

4 easy ways to get your Words on Wellness:

  1. Read the Words on Wellness blog
  2. Follow us on Twitter
  3. Receive blog posts via email subscription or RSS feed
  4. Ask Lynn to send you a paper copy along with the North Winn Weekly Letter.
Together Healthy Kids